News / 7 June, 2011

Residents oppose Hackney high-rise at London Fields

Locals say tower blocks are inappropriate for a designated conservation area of predominantly low-rise buildings

London Lane scheme

Artist's impression of the proposed courtyard. Illustration: Southern Housing Group

Local residents are up in arms as new plans are announced for a 10-storey high-rise block overlooking London Fields.

Following negative feedback on an initial proposal for a 19-storey block, Southern Housing Group have developed a new scheme, creating 58 new homes for 22-44 London Lane. The proposal outlines plans for between two and four storeys around the perimeter of the site and will include a 10 storey tower on the corner.

This scheme is still at pre-planning stage, and Southern Housing Group will be holding a public exhibition at City Edge, 125-127 Mare Street, E8, 3RH on Wednesday 8 June 2011, 3-8pm. The exhibition will provide an opportunity for local residents to view the latest revised scheme, discuss the proposals with the London Lane project team and give feedback.

Polly Richards of campaign group No Hackney High-Rise said: “The view of No Hackney High-Rise is that tower blocks are out of place in the residential streets surrounding London Fields that are typically low-rise (2, 3 and 4 storeys). If allowed by Hackney Council’s planning department, then this will make a mockery of the very idea of a ‘designated conservation area’ (which the site is in) and will raise the likelihood of a whole host of other tower blocks surrounding London Fields.”

A spokesperson from Southern Housing Group said: “Since the Group’s initial consultation in 2009 the project team has been working to respond to feedback from the local community.

“This has included substantially reducing the building height, by almost half, from 19 storeys to a maximum of 10 and reducing the number of new homes from 78 to 58. Southern Housing Group is undergoing further public consultation on the development and is talking to members of the community, including No Hackney High-Rise, about the revised proposal.”

Questions about the scheme can be directed to, tel: 020 7357 6606.

Related: Hackney high-rise will ruin our community, say residents

/ 7 June, 2011
  • simon

    more social housing for Hackney??? yes please!!! the alternative? Keep children living in cramped bed and breakfasts so that the middle classes can have a nice view…

  • simon

    and why do No Hackney High-Rise show an artists impression of the tower as having 24 storeys on their website when it will actually be at most 10? Scare tactics and lies…

  • Benjamin

    Couldn’t agree more Simon. Perhaps NoHackney High-Rise could write an open letter to the people who they have just denied housing to (by forcing SHG to scrap 20 homes) explaining why they think that their desire to impose provincial heritage planning restrictions in an inner London borough is more important than the right to decent social housing in a city with a chronic and dire housing shortage. This is the mentality of middle class home owners kicking out the ladder from under them in order to keep prices high.

  • Benjamin

    “Residents oppose Hackney high-rise at London Fields”? I’m sure some do. And I’m sure some don’t.

  • Sally

    WE NEED HOUSING!! Grow up and build up.

  • In answer to Simon 1
    Southern Housing Group proposal at 22-44 London Lane provides 56 dwellings.

    42 are for sale on the open market.
    8 are shared ownership and
    only 6 are social housing

    This is the absolute bare minimum. Southern Housing is a charity but there is nothing charitable about this development

  • In answer to Simon 2

    The presentation of the 10 storey tower was today and so all images relating to the previous 19 storey tower have been removed.

  • Ian

    Please be under no illusions that this is a social housing scheme, it is not. it is a commercial development trying to gain the maximum return possible, and with the minimum percentage of social housing tagged on. In an area that is already groaning under the strain of its own popularity, this scheme is making no contribution to the amenities of the local area apart from a generic section 106 contribution to Hackney Council…..and which children want to grow up on the 15th floor of any tower, (which by the way is all for private let), where no play facilities or gardens have been provided even at ground level…? I didn’t know concern for the sustainability of your own community is now reserved for the middle classes…..per-leeease

  • NoopyDoopy

    The cost is of living is going up, at least try and get the cost of housing down by building some.

  • simon

    Ian the tower is ten stories high not fifteen -yet more exaggeration – and it seems plenty of middle class people are happy to buy into high rise of this level and above – see Richmond Road or Dalston Junction for example – is the popularity of London Fields only for those who can afford to buy into it? Likewise is decent housing at whatever level only for those with the money? Per-leeease your self but dont pretend you are defending the social mix

    Sustainable Community or gate keeping for a white middle class enclave?

  • This scheme has been designed for maximum profit adversely affecting the quality of life for those who live within and surrounding the development. There is a great need for social housing in Hackney and yet SHG – a supposed housing charity – is providing the bare legal minimum.

  • Benjamin

    No Hackney High-Rise are being dishonest here. They aren’t interested in the slightest in the percentage of social housing. They oppose because the building is “high-rise”. In fact, it is because of their intervention that SHG have reduced the number of social housing units in order to make a shorter building viable for them.

  • Benjamin

    Ian – if you think the block has 15 storeys, it begs the question as to whether you’ve even bothered to look at the proposal before voicing your objections to it.

  • Ian

    I actually quoted fifteen because of the previous proposal not the current. Simon, you’re missing the point. Whatever the height of the tower it is currently only for private rent or sale, There is no intention of using it for social housing. Also is more social housing with worse amenities better than fewer with more? This country has been undoing that course of action for the last forty years. The fact is SHG overpaid for the site at the peak of the market and have been struggling to make it pay ever since. Otherwise they could greatly increase the percentage of social housing that everyone is in favour of.

  • Benjamin

    “The fact is SHG overpaid for the site at the peak of the market and have been struggling to make it pay ever since. Otherwise they could greatly increase the percentage of social housing that everyone is in favour of.”
    I imagine that they paid the going rate at the peak of the market, and they’ve been unable to include more social housing because some selfish nimbys stop them utilising the site to its full potential.

  • Graham Hackney

    I can’t help noticing that objectors to this scheme are constantly providing misinformation and making up their own minds about the bits they nothing about.
    Ian – Social housing providers HAVE to submit planning for schemes that show much private housing as they have their balance sheets to protect like any other business. They will THEN seek to build as many affordable homes as possible dependant on external funding and the amount of uplift from the private houses that feed back into the social stuff. Social Housing providers are NOT FOR PROFIT you loon.
    I dropped in to see this yesterday and thought it was a vast improvement on the previous. It also sets a pretty good precedent, moving the style and scale of development around there away from that hideous Vanguard Tower thing, thrown up by Barratts. !0 stories is probably about right for that corner block otherwise it’ll look a bit silly!
    We need housing desperately, both private and affordable and this one’s looking very promising.

  • SHG are no better than Barratts, there was more social provision in Vanguard House and the accommodation and environment for residents is much better than the proposed development at 22-44 London Lane.

  • Benjamin

    I don’t know if that’s true Keith, but if it is, don’t you think that may have something to do with the size at which they were permitted to build? You make the case well…No Hackney High-Rise and other objectors have succeeded in denying Hackney much needed social housing. And, if that weren’t enough, now you’re trying to deny it even the meagre provision that is now attainable with this downsized proposal. Shame on you all.

  • Benjamin, SHG screwed up by paying a ridiculous amount for this site which was always intended as a development for market sale with the bare minimum of social housing.
    In order to recoup this money they are trying to build a very dense development complete with ten storey tower in a very unsuitable location which will have a damaging effect on the local community and residents of the proposed development who will have to live in its shadow. It was Hackney Council who opposed the tower as unlike you they appreciate that residents and incoming tenants have the right to live in a decent environment – rights that you would clearly deny them.

  • Benjamin

    Keith, you may have a desire to live in a low-rise, low-density, high-priced, middle-class enclave, but that desire is not a “right”. People do however have a right to housing…[real] “rights that you would clearly deny them”. You constantly seem to miss the point that SHG is a non-profit organisation. The fact that they wish to use the site to provide the most housing isn’t “profiteering”, it’s simply doing their job (and an environmentally responsible use of land in a large city with a dire housing shortage). Contrary to your self-serving assertions, the site is entirely suitable for a medium-rise block providing medium-density (and much needed) housing. I do wish those in opposition would stop pretending that they are concerned about the low amount of social housing (especially since they are largely the cause of it). If it were 100% social housing your opposition would increase not diminish.

  • I would love if the proposed site was all social housing.
    If you are looking for somebody to blame, how about blaming SHG who paid a ridiculous amount of money for the site in order to build a gated middle class enclave with the minimum of social housing?

  • Benjamin

    Sorry Keith, but you’re just not making sense. As I’ve said before, “You constantly seem to miss the point that SHG is a non-profit organisation”. If you wanted more social housing you’d be making an argument for a taller building which would facilitate that (economically and physically). You’re doing the opposite; arguing for a shorter building with lower density thereby making social provision less viable.

  • Penelope

    Benjamin- exactly which department of SHG do you work for? Other housing associations are champing at the bit to partner with SHG and turn this site into a good quality mixed-use development WITH social housing to boot. Grants ARE available and many residents wouldn’t oppose this. But we don’t want your yuppy tower and gated enclave. One is enough in this neighbourhood.

  • Sorry Benjamin – SHG has charitable status as their remit is to provide social housing. Why did they spend a ridiculous amount on a site which was only ever going to have the bare minimum of social housing? You say they are non-profit but doubtlessly the directors are handsomely remunerated including those who overpaid for this site in the first place and are trying to stitch up the surrounding community and incoming residents with a tower and a dense, dark development to cover their losses.

  • Benjamin – are you the director who paid several times the value of this site?

  • NoopyDoopy

    It’s very funny this. At the moment the site is some dirty workshops. We’re talking 3-4 Storeys here – flat roof as well..

  • The entire block will be in the shadow of the tower – not so hilarious for existing tenants or those moving in.

  • Benjamin

    Penelope & Keith, I have absolutely nothing to do with SHG or any other interest in the proposal other than I’m a longtime resident of Hackney who spends a lot of time in the London Fields area. I also have a strong dislike of selfish Nimbys. It really is scraping the intellectual barrel when you feel you have to smear local residents because they don’t share your opinion. You keep pretending that you’re interested in the social housing provision but the No Hackney High-Rise website makes no mention of this concern. I’ve no idea what SHG paid for the site but I can only assume that it was the market rate at that time. As I’ve said before, if you were genuinely interested in the social housing provision you’d be arguing for a taller building. “Low-rise family housing” – which is what No Hackney High-Rise are demanding – makes no environmental or economic or social sense for a site of this size in an inner-London borough.

  • Benjamin, if you have no vested interest, why are you defending the indefensible?
    If you are a long-time resident of Hackney you must agree that the gated community that is Vanguard House does nothing to enhance the area?
    Like you, I hate selfish nimbys but unlike you respect those who want to preserve a decent environment for existing and incoming residents.
    There is no social housing in the SHG tower or Vanguard tower, the suggestion that we should allow every property developer to build gated towers on the end of every terraced street in the forlorn hope that they may begrudgingly give Hackney a few social housing dwellings is ridiculous. Do you not see the contradiction that SHG, a social housing charity is building a development that has hardly any social housing?
    By the way, they did paid well above market value.

  • Siobhan

    It’s great to see passionate debate about London Fields’ planning issues. Felt I needed to point out that the amount of Social Housing contained in the now defunct 9 storeys of the proposed tower was Zero. The ratio of social housing in the new design has gone up not down, as has the amount of family housing. This is precisely the type of housing Hackney is currently short of. The scheme is still not good enough though. Benjamin, I really believe local residents must continue to be actively involved in the planning process. The alternative is truly frightening world where citizens abdicate all responsibility for their own lives and environment. If we continue the debate, I am sure it will result in a scheme with better environmental outcomes for everyone.

  • NoopyDoopy


    Keith are you not aware that the sun moves during the day, and so do shadows.

    I agree with Sally. We have had another round of inflation busting rent rises in London, and the reason why that is happening is because of lack of supply, and only way to prevent that is by building residential on brownfield sites.

    It’s good for the local economy too, with renters having more disposable cash to spend in local shops and for construction workers.

  • Penelope

    Southern Housing Group said that the reason they paid the high price they did for this site was because they originally got the nod from Hackney that a tall building would be appropriate in this location. At the first public consultation, they also cited Hackney’s Tall Building Strategy’s (2005) suggested line of tall buildings running from the east to the south of London Fields as the premise for their tower. Yet when the pre-app for the 19 storey tower was finally submitted, Hackney’s Planning dept said (and I quote) that the height was “of concern, and not considered to be appropriate for the site. It is not located in a tall building area and the site is not a ‘landmark’ location suitable for such a building” (Graham Loveland 4th February 2008). So while NHH claim a minor victory, and SHG claim to be conceding to residents concerns, they are in fact only conceding to the views of Hackney’s Planning department (in 2008).

    Clearly people will always have differing views on when and where high or low rise is appropriate. Moreover for some residents, emotions run raw in the wake of the demolition of the Holly Street and other Hackney Tower blocks as to what type of housing is appropriate for families to live in. For the sake of both developers and residents, what is urgently needed is an up to date, clearly defined Local Development Plan for Queensbridge Ward, put out to public consultation and voted upon with the thoroughness of the Central Area plan for Hackney.

  • Benjamin

    Siobhan, I don’t think anybody is remotely suggesting that residents – whether pro or anti – should not be involved in the planning process. I’m merely engaging in a discussion with other Hackney residents about the logic of the views expressed and highlighting concerns outside those of the immediate neighbours’ desires.
    You state that; “If we continue the debate, I am sure it will result in a scheme with better environmental outcomes for everyone”. If your concern for social housing and the environment were genuine you would be arguing for a taller building of greater density. Those in opposition are doing the opposite.

    Penelope, Whether or not a Local Development Plan is devised for the area, if developments on former brownfield sites alongside a railway line in an inner-London borough are forced to be low-rise, low-density then there will be detrimental economic, social and environmental consequences for everyone. If Nimby groups insist on planning offices imposing provincial – or even parochial – planning policies in the inner boroughs of a world capital with a chronic and dire housing shortage, then those Nimby groups should be forced to address the consequences. Low-rise, low-density development doesn’t guarantee a quality neighbourhood, but it does guarantee high prices.

  • Gouldterrorist

    be jam packed full of those skinny jeaned tossers that now dominate the area !!! wish the london field boys would reclaim their area code against these parasites

  • Penelope

    Fortunately for us all, Hackney Council’s current thinking as to appropriate density level’s for housing is guided by the London Plan and not by Nimby’s. It is perfectly possible to achieve well designed, high density, low rise housing that supports and enhances the local area. NHH has always argued for a lower rise scheme that meets but does not exceed the appropriate density for the site. The scheme for London Lane is moving in the right direction, but it is not there yet.

  • Benjamin

    Penelope, as you pointed out earlier, it’s difficult to be precise about what Hackney Council’s “thinking” is at any one time – they often change like the wind. I’ve only given small chunks of the London Plan a quick glimpse, but I can’t see anything in it that would preclude the current proposal. For example in the section Maximising the Potential of Sites; “..boroughs should, ensure that development proposals achieve the maximum intensity of use compatible with local context, the design principles in Policy 4B.1 and with public transport capacity.”.
    On a sizeable brownfield site with a railway station on its doorstep and good bus provision nearby, I think the proposal easily meets these criteria.
    Your plan for “high density, low rise housing” sounds interesting, especially since it defies the laws of physics. Tell me, if developers and planners could achieve high-density accomodation without having to go to the trouble and expense of building up, why would anyone attempt to? Would you have families living in single room accomodation? Perhaps you’re taking your planning inspiration from Dharavi slum?

  • Benjamin, there are several criteria that do not meet the requirements of the London Plan, for example:

    London Plan strategic target for affordable housing in a proposed development is 50%.

    The London Plan promotes towers where: (i) they will create attractive landmarks enhancing London’s character; (ii) they will help to provide a coherent location for economic clusters; and / or (iii) they will act as a catalyst for regeneration; with an overriding criterion that (iv) they are acceptable in terms of design and impact on their surroundings. The proposal by SHG site meets none of these criteria and is therefore not supported in strategic policy terms.
    The London Plan density matrix does not support a density of this scale in this location. Table 3A.2 indicates that ‘urban’ locations such as Hackney could support densities of a maximum of 260 units/ha and considerably lower densities for schemes which provide an appropriate amount of family accommodation.

    Maybe you should read the rest of it…

  • Benjamin

    Keith, you shouldn’t really copy-and-paste a letter from No Hackney High-Rise without first checking to what proposal it refers and indeed whether the claims made in it are correct. I’m not sure what Polly Richards (who wrote the letter) defines as “towers”, but I doubt the London Plan would define a modest 10 storeys as such. The letter you have just copied and pasted refers to a different building that is twice the height of this proposal. The “target” of 50% affordable housing is just that; a target. A target which those who oppose taller buildings (even modest ones) make impossible to reach in most cases.

    Maybe you should read even some of it…

  • Adam

    I think the days of hiring notable architects to design tower blocks is over. It would be a shame if we failed to address the housing shortage solely because some bureaucrat didn’t think a new development was an “attractive landmark enhancing London’s character”.

    Not to mention that it seems half of London think the Gherkin and the Barbican estate are hideous eyesores. Are we really not going to address our housing shortage in order to allow the guardians of taste to battle it out?

    I can appreciate a massive development needing to be ‘significant’ or whatever, but I think it’s a bit unfair to hold all housing estates to such a rigorous standard. Just a thought.

  • I have read it and the LDF. Criteria above apply to proposed scheme also.

  • Penelope

    Benjamin- in the context above I am defining anything below 6 stories as low rise- the maximum height for existing buildings in Mentmore Terrace and London Lane. The idea of good quality high density housing schemes of around 4-6 stories that enhance rather than the neighbourhoods in which they are built is nothing new. This project is even harder to achieve well since it sits within a designated employment zone so it has to solve two problems at once in a tight space. Even if you disagree with those that oppose tower blocks as a one stop solution for remedying the housing crisis, I would hope even you would agree that it is worth trying to make PRP (the architects) and SHG work a bit harder to achieve their aim of regenerating this particular corner of Hackney in a manner that aligns with the London Plan and moreover that we can all be proud of.

  • Benjamin

    Penelope – you’re simply abusing language in order to try and make your argument sound plausible. 4-6 storeys of family housing cannot be described as high-density. The idea that the London Plan requires a modest 10 storey block (or “tower” as you prefer tp call it) to be of “landmark” architecture is utterly ridiculous. Your “solution” is to provide less housing for a city with a dire shortage and in a manner that is less environmentally friendly. Is that a legacy you can “all be proud of”?

  • Benjamin – Density is measured in terms of habitable rooms per hectare as on table 3A.2 of the London plan. The previous tower was way above 260 habitable rooms per hectare and the existing proposal is still above London plan specified density for an urban location (which Hackney is classified). Density table exists to ensure that residents have a reasonable space in which to live and the infrastructure can cope. Why do you seek to deny residents a decent quality of life? If you have lived in Hackney for as long as you say, you will remember the demolition of very dense accommodation. At present, Hackney, SHG and the residents are all working together to provide a development we can all be proud of – this is how it should be, a democracy, not as you would like it to be where you alone dictate.

  • Benjamin

    Keith, first you attempt to argue that anything 10-storeys or above needs to be of “landmark” style architecture. Then you attempt to argue that anything above 10 storeys in an area deemed urban is too dense. Which is it? You also have very strange ideas as to what constitutes “democracy” and dictatorship. Surely a democratic process would include the voices of all affected, including those you would deny homes to. And how on earth can me expressing my views on an open forum be characterised as a desire for me to “alone dictate”?

  • Density is measured in terms of habitable rooms per hectare – building high does not solve this problem. Present proposal for London Lane is over 277 which is well above the maximum of 260 on the London plan. This maximum limit exists for a reason so that families can have the minimum of living accommodation, recreational space, schools, surgeries, transport etc. so that their needs are adequately catered for. This is based on years of research and discussion to provide a decent quality of life for those who live in London. Your argument is simplistic as we cannot continue to increase density exponentially – high densities create great social problems an Hackney has learned from its past. Clearly it is cheaper for developers to overdevelop existing communities but maybe London just has to get bigger and the ongoing extensions of our transport network will make this possible without irreparably damaging existing communities. Environment is important and if we could build better spaces for people to live, we would have less social problems.

  • Benjamin

    I would have thought that this area would be defined as ‘Central’ under the Plan’s definition of the category decribing the surrounding area as containing..; “buildings of four or six storeys and above, such as large town centres all over London”. As you know, this site has many buildings around it that are 4-6 and way above. Your interpretation of the London Plan seems to be making the opposite conclusion than its stated Aims and Objectives which states; “Encouraging high intensity development particularly on brownfield sites is an important contribution towards achieving ‘sustainable’ developments.”.
    Your argument for urban sprawl goes against what virtually every economist and environmentalist is arguing for the world’s major cities, i.e., compact and high-density cities. Finally, your attempt to blame social problems on high-density developments is inaccurate and self-serving. Social problems have always followed poverty whether in low-rise or high-rise buildings. They can be exaccerbated by ghettoising poverty in estates where only poorer people live, but that is why it is now favoured to have mixed housing developments such as the one proposed.

  • Benjamin – Hackney is ‘urban’ under the plans definition regardless of what you may think. Proposal is as you want ‘a high intensity development on a brownfield site’ – so high in fact that it is above the high density limit for an urban area of 260 habitable rooms per hectare on the London plan. The intended development can hardly be described as ‘mixed’
    when there is only six social housing units out of 54 more a middle-class gated enclave.

  • Benjamin

    Keith, the London Plan itself admits that area classification is “subjective” and “open to interpretation”, so I’m afraid that your certainty may be a little premature. Furthermore, the high-rise immediately to your north would indicate that the council doesn’t share your interpretation. Hackney Council has stated in its AAP for Dalston (written prior to the construction of Dalston Square) “the
    London Plan Standards indicate that residential development densities of up to 770 hr/ha
    are appropriate within a 10 minute walk or 800 m distance of the main transport facilities,
    with 450 hr/ha elsewhere in the AAP area”. Having said all that, the London Plan density figures are only guides and as it said in its review, they are routinely exceeded – in fact, in its case study of 50 developments, the majority exceeded density guidelines. I notice that once again you are pretending to be concerned about the meagre provision of affordable/social housing (25%). As I’ve said before if you were genuinely concerned about this you’d be making an argument for a taller building. Is this what you’re arguing for with SHG? Or are you attempting to mislead?

  • Hackney Council opposed Vanguard House, developer went over their heads to John Prescott’s office which was unfortunate as it is not a good development.
    SHG site is defined as an urban location on the London Plan whether you like it or not and nobody involved has disputed that definition. Service to London Fields Station is curtailed by the number of platforms in Liverpool Station unlike Dalston which has its own new tube and therefore not comparable. Trains to London Fields are very overcrowded during peak hours and are becoming increasingly so.
    It remains to be seen how successful Dalston Square will fare as a development – there is very little recreational space for such a dense development. There are also lots of other buildings going up and all of them will put pressure on existing services which are struggling. ‘Subjective’ and ‘open to interpretation’ is not the same as disregarded which is what you seem to favour. I care passionately about social housing but all housing needs to be of a good standard for everyone’s benefit – we should strive for better standards not worse. A lot of sub-standard housing has been demolished in Hackney which in most cases could have been avoided if they were built to a decent standard in the first place which should bother you if you actually are environmentally concerned as it is very wasteful of resources.

  • A real affront from some of the commentators here is the assertion that if you oppose this development then you obviously don’t care about mixed communities.
    Real concern is not about just hitting some top-down target for builds that politicians can then feature as a sentence in their leaflets, it’s about ensuring that the residents live in sustainable quality homes that they don’t feel trapped in.
    More is good led us to the developments at the old Holly Street and the social atomisation that that produced. If you ask families on the waiting list what they want (rather than just from what’s available) they answer “A house with a garden”. Apparently their voices aren’t being heard by the Ernő Goldfinger modernists (You know the sort – they think Robin Hood Gardens is just misunderstood).
    Tall buildings only work with extensive management, concierges, security and concomitantly high service charges. Low rise homes with gardens don’t need any of that. (the proposal, incidentally, is another gated community)
    I feel sorry for Southern Housing because they took their decision to buy the land on the flawed advice from a Council that doesn’t much like talking to its residents and which gave permission for the abomination that is Vanguard House.
    The crisis in housing in London is not going to be solved with the same medicine that created it in the first place – treating housing developments like they are warehousing for families.

  • Adam

    …until the Conservative Party endorses such projects. Then it will be a different story.

  • janeF

    Dear Andrew Boff

    the many people who chose to buy homes in “the Abomination that is vanguard house” are also voters and shan’t be putting a cross by your name if it comes up on any local ballot.


  • Benjamin

    Is Conservative London Assembly member Andrew Boff so desperate for votes that he is now publicly flying in the face of virtually every economist’s and environmentalist’s advice on the development of sustainable homes in our major urban centres to tackle catastrophic climate change, by advocating building “houses with gardens” on the fringes of the world’s most important financial hub simply in order to pick up a few votes from some small NIMBYist group?
    Has he got such little faith in his own country that he believes London is the only modern world capital in which tall buildings won’t work?
    Boff is entitled to his limited parochial tastes in architecture, but to say that tall buildings “don’t work” when huge numbers of people are queuing up to pay good money to buy them (a flat in Goldfinger’s Trellick Tower can now fetch £500,000) seems to be based on sheer ignorance.
    He claims to feel affronted because I point out the demonstrable fact that arguing for lower buildings whilst simultaneously arguing for a higher proportion of that building to be affordable/social is contradictory. What exactly is this Tory politcian proposing as a solution to our chronic and dire housing shortage? That we abandon the market-based model for providing affordable homes and revert to mass building of council houses? Is that now Tory policy? If so, then please say so, otherwise I’m left thinking that you’re simply a deceitful politician in desperate need of some NIMBYist votes. The political rhetoric is just so vacuous; even if you believe that building homes for families is “warehousing”, how on earth did that create today’s housing shortage? Nothing to do with rapidly increasing population then?
    The thought of someone who has such little grasp of both the housing crisis and climate-change being a politician in the London Assembly is both alarmng and quite frightening.

  • Adam

    Andrew Boff’s political positions are very simple to understand: he opposes anything that the Labour-controlled Hackney Council endorses or proposes. Simple as that. That’s why he can take any issue and work an anti-Council dig or five into his comment.

    Now, I don’t pretend to agree with everything the Council does (or indeed, most of it) and I am opposed to the Labour Party. But I don’t think it’s very wise or mature to simply oppose something because the other guys came up with the idea first. If an idea is a a good one, you should just be honest and say so.

    That said, he may very well oppose the building of this development for other reasons. But I think it’s foolish to think Hackney’s housing crisis will be solved by building garden flats and houses. That’s just not feasible.

    As far as the numbers go, both sides are able to manipulate those or ‘interpret’ those to support their opinions. That’s just the way politics (and business) tend to work: get an idea and then make your research support it… and if it doesn’t, discount your research and go ahead with your plans.

    The one ‘smart’ comment I’ve seen in opposition to this ‘tower’ is the comment about crowding on trains at London Fields. That’s a fair comment: during rush hour, trains on the line are bursting. That’s not to say it’s a deal-breaker, but it ought to be considered.

  • Benjamin

    It sounds more like an argument for investment in public transport to me.

  • Keith, you are quite right. The council did oppose the Vanguard House carbuncle and it was Prescott that allowed it. Apologies for that.
    Benjamin – People may choose to purchase in Trellick tower-it’s a great view- but due to the shortages in housing in Hackney, tenants will have no such choice. It’s homelessness or a cramped flat with no play space. Those are the real choices for people in housing need due to the massive shortage of housing. We need more larger houses with gardens, the vernacular style incidentally, and these are being encouraged through the revised London Plan.

    Ultimately, the Government needs to provide more incentives for investment in housing and local authorities need to free up more land (of which there is plenty) for developments rather than behaving like property speculators. It is a shame that the welfare reforms do not take account of the very high cost of housing in London and it will make it very difficult for such investment to take place without some guarantees of a revenue stream for investors.
    For those that think that building houses with gardens is unfeasible, Hackney Homes are proposing exactly that kind of scheme for Bayton Court to the south of London Fields and the new Holly Street is predominantly houses with gardens. It’s not impossible with a little effort and love.

  • Benjamin

    Andrew Boff – Of course it’s “possible” to build houses with gardens in inner-London boroughs. But it is absolutely impossible that doing so will have anything but dire consequenses for attempts to address both the chronic housing shortage and catastrophic climate change. If anyone was ever daft enough to believe the Tories’ claim of being “the greenest government ever”, please take note.

  • Benjamin

    Andrew Boff states that;
    “People may choose to purchase in Trellick tower-it’s a great view- but due to the shortages in housing in Hackney, tenants will have no such choice. It’s homelessness or a cramped flat with no play space. Those are the real choices for people in housing need due to the massive shortage of housing. We need more larger houses with gardens, the vernacular style incidentally, and these are being encouraged through the revised London Plan.”
    I think that is one of the most confused and self-defeating comments I’ve read in quite some time.

  • Benjamin, All i ask is not that we tick the box once a family is placed in one of these tower blocks, but that we think what it is like to be brought up through ones’ entire formative years in that environment.The real shortage in Hackney is for family homes. Some of this shortage can be addressed by tackling under-occupation but certainly not all of it. We need more family sized homes, not more flats into which councils are, due to that shortage, having to place families.
    Some of the arguments are here:

    The remaining Holly Street Tower Block worked well because it was able to restrict access to over 55’s. Due to the pressure on the list, young families are now being placed there without any play space, so creating problems for the future.
    The decision to build is not reducible to a binary choice … the availability of services, location and the preservation of the quality of life have to be taken into consideration. There is plenty of land available on the Royal parks, and, indeed, on London Fields. Despite the severe housing shortage we don’t build there because to do so would be a net long term loss to our community.

  • NoopyDoopy

    God Andrew – Free markets (except when it obscures the view from my kitchen)?

  • Benjamin

    Andrew Boff – I do wish you would stop attributing the social problems of poverty to architecture. I can see why a Tory politician might want to pass the buck and not take responsiblity for their policies, but it really is dishonest. Social problems have followed those living in poverty whether in the low-rise terraces of 19th Century (I can’t remember seeing any high-rise in Hogarth’s prints) or council estates (high and low-rise) of the 20th. If high-rise living was the cause of these problems why isn’t the Barbican awash with social-workers? Why aren’t there riots in Canary Wharf? Why are people prepared to pay top-dollar to live in them? Why do you believe London is the only world capital that is not suited to them?
    In your first comment here, you implied that you were concerned about the limited affordable/social housing provision in this development. May I ask what you have said to Boris about his decision to drop the 50% target for affordable provision?
    You point out that we don’t build on green sites for the greater good of the whole. Quite right. That is why the London Plan’s Aims and Objectives states;
    “Encouraging high intensity development particularly on brownfield sites is an important contribution towards achieving ‘sustainable’ developments.”.
    Precisely why this brownfield site should be utilised fully – to take the stress off greener sites and help reduce sprawl, and in doing so help alleviate both the housing shortage and carbon emissions.

  • Benjamin

    And another thing;
    When the original proposal was made, No Hackney High-Rise asked on their website “Could You Do Better?” and stated;
    “Exemplary schemes in Hackney such as the Blue Hut Development [Nile Street] in Hoxton by the Peabody Trust prove that high-density housing is possible without high-rise.
    Isn’t is time that Southern Housing Group took a leaf out of Peabody’s books and design a responsible housing scheme without having such a detrimental impact on the surrounding area?”
    And yet if one takes the time to visit Nile Street, you’ll see that the development sits on a virtually identical sized site to London Lane and that the new SHG proposal is virtually identical in terms of its height and massing. So what prompts NHHR to still oppose the new proposal on the grounds that it is;
    “totally out of scale”, “overshadows the remainder of the development, the surrounding houses and London Fields East”, “falls outside Hackney’s Tall Building zone”, “will increase pressures on local services and amenities”, “will exacerbate the wind funnel” and is “too dense”?
    Does anyone get the feeling that nothing will be “exemplary” enough for this NIMBY group?

  • Benjamin, Families with children who could afford to tend not to choose tower blocks to live in. Those who cannot afford it are forced to.

  • Benjamin

    Boff – If you’re proposing that all families in inner-London boroughs live in “houses with gardens” could you please inform us where everyone is going to fit. Your proposal would accomodate a lucky few in houses with gardens and leave the rest in bedsits. I must say I don’t think I’ve ever debated with someone on this issue who has such a poor grasp of even the basics.

  • Benjamin, The issue is not where is the land, it’s why is the land not being put to use.

    Just as a note, I wasn’t brought up to play the player rather than the ball. But please do carry on with the abuse – It says more about you than me.

  • Benjamin

    Andrew Boff – In an earlier post you stated that the public sector needed to free up more land and that the scarcity of land fit for building is not an issue. The report you post states that of the 3,745ha of brownfield sites in the entire Greater London area, the public sector owns 20%. They go on to say that “public landholdings need significant amounts of remediation or infrastructure improvements” which I guess would put many sites beyond viability. But if we ignore that for a moment, and ignore the fact that many of these sites may be in unfeasible locations, the report states that a maximum of 50,000 houses could be accomodated on all this land. Now if you bear in mind that the Mayor has an annual target of at least 33,400 each year you’ll see that whilst this land is useful and should be used it is by no stretch of the imagination going to solve our housing shortage.
    Now think how much more efficiently that land could be used were you to build up on it, including larger 3 & 4 bedroom flats suitable for families.

  • The private sector land also needs to be included and incentives provided to develop the right kind of schemes for families. That’s why I think the Government has been short sighted in its benefit changes as they relate to London. We have, for example, an underdeveloped institutional private rental market and Housing Associations who need financial incentives to develop family housing. If we are to get them building they need guarantees of income which the total benefit cap, as it is currently designed, threatens.
    Where I disagree with you is that we should sacrifice quality of life for the sake of coping with the quantity. London is, with a few exceptions (The City, Canary Wharf & Croydon), a low rise city and people generally like it like that. We can sacrifice that to the economics of eternal expansion or we can say that actually, Inner London should be a place in which people are content to bring up families, whatever their means. People do not chose to bring up families in a Tower Block though local authorities (not just Hackney) have been content to place them there. I just can’t agree that high rise flats are the answer. We’ve kind of tried that before.

  • BarryB

    Does Andrew Boff think that areas around the Thames in Battersea and Imperial Wharf are low rise?

  • Benjamin

    Andrew Boff – We need to tackle London’s housing shortage, get people out of expensive and inappropriate accomodation (especially single parents in bedsits) bring down London’s astronomical prices (so that we don’t have generations of professionals who can’t even afford to buy a home), increase London’s competitiveness in the world market, increase accomodation room sizes (some of the smallest in the world), reduce urban sprawl and make our urban centres more compact and high-density in order to reduce carbon emissions to help avoid catastophic climate change. There is only one way we can do all that, and that is to build up. Other world capitals thrive with tall buildings and I don’t see why we should be different especially since we are fantastically served (better than any other city) with parks. If one attempts to impose planning policies more suited to a provincial heritage town than a world capital, eventually the latter will become the former.

  • Benjamin

    By the way, I don’t agree that the Tory benefits changes are “short-sighted” as you claim. I believe they will achieve exactly what the Tories want them to achieve; to drive large numbers of the poor out of inner-London.

  • Benjamin,
    The total benefit cap was in both the Labour and Conservative manifestos.
    It is correct in its aim but unsubtle in its application to London. Do you think that it is OK for families to be forced to live in Tower Blocks when what they want is houses with gardens? I don’t.Perhaps Cllr BarryB could let us know also.

  • Benjamin

    “Do you think that it is OK for families to be forced to live in Tower Blocks when what they want is houses with gardens?” Really Andrew, this is getting peurile.
    As any child could tell you, everyone living in houses with gardens simply isn’t possible. It is the failure of people like you to address the housing shortage that is forcing them to live in bedsits. You’d rather sell lies to Nimbys than address reality.

  • NoopyDoopy

    Andrew – I’m quite shocked that you don’t seem to be taking this issue seriously.

    Do you understand the strength of feeling amongst the 20s-30s year olds.

    I’m sure we can get the balance right with 4 storey high building built in a traditional style. That would not be any different from a lot of Hackney and inner London.

    Come on the Conservatives need housing policies which recognise the amount of demand in the system – true to the pro-market party it has become.

    So come on!!! You’re losing my vote, I want to vote Tory.

  • Andrew Boff

    i’m happy to reply to the above but I think the argument is getting circular. Perhaps we should have a public meeting and get a few more voices?

  • Benjamin

    We’ve been building 4 storey terraces for hundreds of years. We need to design buildings that address 21st century housing, economic and environmental problems. The report that Andrew Boff posts demonstrates that housing need cannot be met by building houses, even if every last scrap of brownfield sites were viable. In effect what he is advocating is the continuaton of our housing shortage, exhorbitant property prices (that keep even professionals off the property ladder), and sprawl into green-belt with catastrophic environmental consequences (both local and global).
    Furthermore, if his point that “the real shortage is for family houses” were true why is it that there is so much profit to be made splitting all our Victorian family houses into flats? It’s because the predominant need is for flats and because conservative Nimbys keep blocking the building of flats on a large scale, the pressure is then put on houses to convert. Surely it would be better to build high-rise flats en masse and thereby hang on to our dwindling stock of Victorian family houses. And – to bring this chat back on track – I suggest we start by backing the building of this modest apartment block on London Lane (which is the same size as the Nile Street development residents’ group NHHR earlier called “exemplary”).

  • Benjamin

    And just to emphasise the disingenuity of No Hackney HIgh-Rise, they have just removed the page from their site which used Peabody’s Nile Street development as an exemplar model of what could be done on the London Lane site.
    But when I point out that SHG’s new proposal is virtually identical to the Nile Street development, they decide to remove any reference to this “exemplary” development.
    For the record, this is what their site used to say about Nile Street;
    “Exemplary schemes in Hackney such as the Blue Hut Development [Nile Street] in Hoxton by the Peabody Trust prove that high-density housing is possible without high-rise.
    Isn’t is time that Southern Housing Group took a leaf out of Peabody’s books and design a responsible housing scheme without having such a detrimental impact on the surrounding area?”
    What does this tell us about the Nimby campaign run by No Hackney High-Rise?

  • NoopyDoopy

    Hi Andrew,

    How can I contact you?

    Your GLA email address?


  • No Hackney High-rise

    Dear Benjamin, All the pages have changed over the last four days to take into account the new revised proposal from SHG. Reference to Nile St. is still there under page entitled ‘Could you do better’.

  • Benjamin

    You’re being a bit disingenuous again. The ‘Could You Do Better’ page wasn’t there all of yesterday. So you’ve decided to reinstate it to try and save face. Your removal and reinstatement of this page doesn’t coincide with the release of the new development (you had already done alterations to your website days ago to account for that). Your removal and reinstatement of the page does however coincide with me pointing out your duplicity.
    But this still begs the question, why do you laud Peabody’s Nile Street as an exemplar model of what could be done on London Lane when the majority of the development is six storeys as opposed to SHG’s proposal of four storeys?
    Why is SHG’s “gated” nature a bad thing, but Nile Street’s is “exemplary”?
    Why is SHG’s “tower” unacceptable but Nile Street’s is “exemplary”?
    Why are you now requesting buildings of just “3 to 4 storeys”, when a short time ago you were advocating that Nile Street’s 6 to 9 storeys should be used as an exemplar of how “high-density housing is possible without high-rise”?
    You suggested; “Isn’t is time that Southern Housing Group took a leaf out of Peabody’s books and design a responsible housing scheme without having such a detrimental impact on the surrounding area?”. They did exactly that and then you moved the goalposts. And then tried to cover your tracks.
    I can’t help but feel that your “objections” are duplicitous and fraudulent.

  • Dear Benjamin. Page is there and apart from maintenance has always been there. The entire text states:

    ‘Exemplary schemes in Hackney such as the Blue Hut Development in Hoxton by the Peabody Trust prove that high-density housing is possible without high-rise. Isn’t is time that Southern Housing Group took a leaf out of Peabody’s books and design a responsible housing scheme without having such a detrimental impact on the surrounding area? We challenge those experts amongst you to come up with a responsible alternative scheme that wont blight Hackney’s skyline for years to come. We will post all your ideas here and make sure that Southern Housing Group and the Hackney Planning Committee see them too…

    Nowhere in the above text does it suggest that an identical development should be built on London Lane as it is a different site in an urban location with different parameters. We ask Southern Housing to ‘take a leaf out of Peabody’s books and design a responsible housing scheme without having such a detrimental impact on the surrounding area’.

    The website has been updated. Our objections are clearly stated in detail on page ‘letter to developer’ which was prepared by planning consultants Quadrant in line with current planning legislation.

  • Andrew Boff

    07778 059 290

  • Benjamin

    I’m sorry No Hackney High-Rise but your claims just aren’t credible. You objected to the initial development because you deemed it too tall and too dense and presented Nile Street (and no other developments) as an exemplar of “high-density without high-rise”. Since SHG has now proposed something very close to the “exemplary” Nile Street, you now claim that your presentation of the development has nothing to do with London Lane. If so why did you present it? You now request housing of just 3 to 4 storeys, which is hardly high-density, so why make reference to the high-density Nile Street development of 6 to 9 storeys? It is plain to see that you are simply moving the goalposts and solutions you deemed “exemplary” not long ago are now “unacceptable” to you.
    Incidentally, why are your Archives no longer accessible?

  • Dear Benjamin. I have explained the reference to Nile St in previous comment (80). Our objectives have not changed and are clearly stated on our website. Our objections to the latest proposal by SHG for London Lane are cleary stated on our website and our archives are accesible and have always been accessible apart from maintenance.

  • Benjamin

    You haven’t “explained” it at all. You simply and implausibly claimed that it wasn’t intended as a model for London Lane, which still begs the question why present a 6 to 9 storey development as an exemplar of “high-density without high-rise” if you are opposed to high-density – which you now are.
    You claim that your “objectives have not changed”, even when they demonstrably have;
    First you oppose the 19 storeys and present a 6 to 9 storey development as an exemplar.
    Then NHH co-founder Siobhan Marwell says you are “happy” with up to 6 storeys.
    Then when SHG propose something very close to your exemplar, you still oppose it, but this time requesting just “3 to 4 storeys”.
    It simply isn’t plausible that your architectural objections are sincere ones. What is more plausible however is that your objection is rooted in a desire to keep housing scarce in order to keep your property values up, and a fear over the kind of people who will move into any new accomodation. As NHH has already stated; “we are worried the flats will be used as buy to lets which will create a more transient population and spoil the community spirit”. A “community spirit” that would seek to deny homes to the community?

  • Benjamin, your objection is rooted in a desire to keep housing scarce in order to keep your property values up, and a fear over the kind of people who will move into any new accomodation Playing the player again? Can you note that neither No Hackney High-rise or myself have accused you or Southern Housing of being venal technocrats who care little about housing conditions or community cohesion and who only seek to to achieve a dirigiste target so they can satisfy the kind of detached middle class guilt that built the old Holly Street. We don’t do that because there is nothing to suggest that that is true. It is really tiresome to enter into an serious argument that descends into personal abuse of people you have never met. Do you actually believe that someone can disagree with you with motives other than selfish financial gain?Oh, and on a Political note, house building slumped by an average of 24,000 a year under the previous Government compared to the previous Conservative one.
    Table 244

    Perhaps this may have contributed to the problem?

  • Benjamin

    Andrew – thanks for your outburst. Firstly, you previously accused me of “playing the player” (comment 65) when all I stated was that I had never “debated with someone on this issue who has such a poor grasp of even the basics”. Now, I can understand why you don’t like people expressing views about you competence, but you really shouldn’t have gone into politics if you thought you could dismiss critics by labelling their comments as “personal abuse”. It is neither personal nor abusive, I am simply making comment on your understanding of issues which pertain to this thread and to your professional role as a politician. It doesn’t matter that we have “never met”; you are an accountable politician who freely joined a debate in a public arena and I am basing my comments on my experience of you. (There’s probably an official at the London Assembly who can explain the role of politicians and the nature of accountability to you more fully).

    Secondly, you seem to regard my statement that NHH posess “a fear over the kind of people who will move into any new accomodation”, as unfair (or even abusive). But as I have already stated, this view is demonstrable from public statements that NHH have made; “we are worried the flats will be used as buy to lets which will create a more transient population and spoil the community spirit”.

    Thirdly, contrary to your assertion, I have been accused, on a few occasions, of being some SHG stooge, or even its Director! These accusations, however, are not based on evidence other than the fact that I disagree with the accuser. Incidentally, I have been vocal on many issues regarding planning and the environment for many years and – to reiterate – nothing to do with SHG. For example, this from last year;
    Fourthly, whilst I loathe Conservatives, I am no fan of Labour, and since I have already described our housing shortage as “chronic”, I think it safe to say that I’ve never attributed it solely to a government that has only been in office a short time. So, I don’t really understand the relevance your final “political note”, other than it seems to suggest that you can’t find anything constructive the Tories are doing to combat the shortage.

    Finally, you do seem to do a very good line in kamikaze digressions. This thread is about a proposal for a development on London Lane and how some of the residents oppose it. Why not stick to that topic rather than indulging in outlandish digressionary comments.

  • Sally

    it really does look as though ‘no hackney high-rise’ have led a very dishonest campaign. i hope the planners are aware of this.

  • Benjamin

    UPDATE – No Hackney HIgh-rise have now removed any reference to the “exemplary” Nile Street development (which closely resembles the new SHG proposal) from their website.

    “Exemplary” def; worthy of imitation, serving as a pattern.

    Wednesday’s Independent on the changes to planning law;
    “People don’t want to see high-rise flats being built….so, unfortunately there is little choice other than building on greenfield sites”. (Government source).
    Well done No Hackney High-rise – the “worst-case scenario” (European Environment Agency) of low-rise urban sprawl on greenfield due to a combination of self-serving greed over ones own property price and sheer environmental ignorance.

  • rose

    Ok, its 3 years later but I wonder if any of you have ever lived in a high-rise development? I grew up in one and it was horrendous so before you middle class people who will never have to live in one think youre helping by demanding that the poor be shoved into high-rise developments taht destroy an area and are awful for kids please ask the people who are actually going to have to live there.

  • Edward Tarr

    I am poor and we need more high rise blocks, I would be happy to live in a high rise apartment but they are so popular they are all full up, we have a housing crisis and we need to build up.


Sign up for Hackney news straight to your inbox with our weekly Friday digest - also featuring special offers, competitions and more
Email address
First Name
Last Name
Secure and Spam free...